In 2014, the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology published a paper that reviewed 30 speech assessments in 19 languages other than English (McLeod & Verdon, 2014). The editors overseeing the paper requested that a tutorial be written regarding how to undertake speech assessments with multilingual children. The subsequent tutorial was co-authored by 46 members of the International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech (IEPMCS), who worked in 43 countries and used 27 languages in professional practice (McLeod, Verdon, & IEPMCS, 2017). The tutorial provides guidelines and resources for SLPs working with multilingual children with suspected speech sound disorders. It addresses

  • clinical referral, case history, assessment, analysis, diagnosis, and goal setting;
  • SLPs’ cultural competence and preparation for working with interpreters and multicultural support workers; and
  • SLPs’ organizational and governmental barriers and facilitators to culturally competent practice.

The tutorial concludes with a case study demonstrating the application of the recommendations for a monolingual speech-language pathologist (SLP) working with a preschool aged boy who speaks both Cantonese and English­. Some of the recommended resources include the following:

“The need for resources to support SLPs who work with multilingual children is greater than ever.”

The underpinning ethos behind the tutorial resonates with the first point of the position paper written by the IEPMCS (2012): “Children are supported to communicate effectively and intelligibly in the languages spoken within their families and communities, in the context of developing their cultural identities” (p. 2). We hope that readers take away three things after reading the tutorial:

  1. SLPs can be confident that the skills they have for assessing monolingual children in their own language are transferrable to assessing multilingual children (however, they also need some additional knowledge and skills).
  2. More time needs to be allocated to seeking knowledge, considering cultural competence, and building relationships with families and communities in order to undertake respectful and useful assessments with multilingual children.
  3. There are many resources for supporting children who speak languages other than those spoken by the SLP.

The need for resources to support SLPs who work with multilingual children is greater than ever. There are 7,099 languages spoken throughout the world today (Simons & Fennig, 2017). In the United States, 20.8% of people speak a language other than English at home. For 12.9% of the U.S. population, that language is Spanish; however, more than 300 languages are spoken in the United States (Ryan, 2013). Currently, there is unprecedented displacement of people throughout the world (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2016), heralding increased cultural and linguistic diversity within countries that traditionally have maintained a dominant language and culture.

Countries (such as the United States and Australia) that use one dominant language are said to have a “monolingual mindset” (Clyne, 2008, p. 347). The long-held dominance of English as a global language provides impetus for this mindset to be maintained (Crystal, 1997). In the speech-language pathology profession, the monolingual mindset may be maintained by the fact that, in contrast to the number of languages spoken in the United States (and worldwide), only 7% of American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) members self-identify as bilingual service providers. By definition, bilingual service providers “must be able to speak their primary language and to speak (or sign) at least one other language with native or near-native proficiency . . . during clinical management. In addition to linguistic proficiency, the audiologist or SLP must have the specific knowledge and skill sets necessary for the services to be delivered” (ASHA, 2017a). Of these 7% of ASHA members, 63% were Spanish-language service providers (SLPs and audiologists), and most worked in educational settings (ASHA, 2017b).

“The tutorial provides guidelines and resources for SLPs working with multilingual children with suspected speech sound disorders.”

The predominantly monolingual speech-language pathology workforce in the United States (and other countries) often report that they are underequipped to provide advice and assessment to multilingual children and families who do not speak the same language (Roseberry-McKibbin, Brice, & O’Hanlon, 2005). Although there is an emerging evidence base for working with culturally and linguistically diverse children and families, SLPs will never be able to speak all of the languages and dialects of the children they work with; therefore, they must seek advice regarding their cultural competence and practices with diverse populations.

Much of the research published in English has been described as being conducted on “WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) societies . . . who are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans” (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010, p. 61). Indeed, although ASHA journals have a global base of contributors and readers, there is more to be done (Kent, 2016). For example, only 20.5% of papers published in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research in 2015 were written by authors outside the United States, and the majority of those papers reported on participants who spoke English (McLeod, 2016).

“Provides a practical pathway for applying the best available research evidence to clinical practice with multilingual children and their families.”

An English-centered, monolingual mindset is in contrast to evidence identifying academic, social, cultural, emotional, and economic benefits to multilingualism—both for individuals and, more broadly, for society (Adesope, Lavin, Thompson, & Ungerleider, 2010; Clyne, 2008; Park & Sarkar, 2007). For example, people who speak another language in addition to speaking English well are more likely than monolingual English speakers to be employed, to have a higher income, and to have postgraduate qualifications (Blake, McLeod, Verdon, & Fuller, 2016). Given the importance of supporting multilingualism and the perceived challenges identified by SLPs, the current tutorial paper provides a practical pathway for applying the best available research evidence to clinical practice with multilingual children and their families.

References

Adesope, O. O., Lavin, T., Thompson, T., & Ungerleider, C. (2010). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the cognitive correlates of bilingualism. Review of Educational Research, 80, 207−245.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2017a). Bilingual service delivery. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/PRPSpecificTopic.aspx?folderid=8589935225&section=Key_Issues

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2017b). Demographic profile of ASHA members providing bilingual services—March 2017. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/Demographic-Profile-Bilingual-Spanish-Service-Members.pdf

Blake, H. L., McLeod, S., Verdon, S., & Fuller, G. (2016). The relationship between spoken English proficiency and participation in higher education, employment, and income from two Australian censuses. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/17549507.2016.1229031

Clyne, M. (2008). The monolingual mindset as an impediment to the development of plurilingual potential in Australia. Sociolinguistic Studies, 2, 347−365. https://doi.org/10.1558/sols.v2i3.347

Crystal, D. (1997). English as a global language. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 61−83.

Kent, R. D. (2016). Planning for the future of the ASHA scholarly journals. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/Articles/Planning-for-the-Future-of-the-ASHA-Scholarly-Journals/

McLeod, S. (2016, November). Planning for the future of the ASHA scholarly journals: Invited response to Raymond D. Kent. Presentation at the Researcher-Academic Town Meeting, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention, Philadelphia, PA.

McLeod, S., & Verdon, S. (2014). A review of 30 speech assessments in 19 languages other than English. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 23, 708−723. https://doi.org/10.1044/2014_AJSLP-13-0066

McLeod, S., Verdon, S., & International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech. (2017). Tutorial: Speech assessment for multilingual children who do not speak the same language(s) as the speech-language pathologist. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_AJSLP-15-0161

Park, S. M., & Sarkar, M. (2007). Parents’ attitudes toward heritage language maintenance for their children and their efforts to help their children maintain the heritage language. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 20, 223−235. https://doi.org/10.2167/lcc337.0

Roseberry-McKibbin, C., Brice, A., & O’Hanlon, L. (2005). Serving English language learners in public school settings: A national survey. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 36(1), 48−61. https://doi.org/10.1044/0161-1461(2005/005)

Ryan, C. (2013). Language use in the United States: 2011. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.

Simons, G. F., & Fennig, C. D. (Eds.). (2017). Ethnologue: Languages of the world (20th ed.). Dallas, TX: SIL International. Retrieved from http://www.ethnologue.com

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2016). UNHCR global trends: Forced displacement in 2015. Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/statistics/unhcrstats/576408cd7/unhcr-global-trends-2015.html